Helen Brosnan has recovered from an ankle injury to be named at out-half in the Ireland team for their Women’s Rugby World Cup play-off clash with Scotland at Surrey Sports Park on Sunday (kick-off 11.15am).
Having admitted that tiredness was a factor in the midweek loss to the USA, head coach Philip Doyle has made five changes in personnel for Ireland’s final match of the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
Mairead Kelly will make her first start of the tournament, coming in on the left wing with Eliza Downey switching to the right. Amy Davis is the player to make way.
Helen Brosnan’s recovery from an ankle injury sees her return at out-half, meaning a move back to centre for Joanne O’Sullivan at the expense of Shannon Houston.
The other alterations are in the pack where Louise Austin returns at tighthead prop, with Gillian Bourke reverting to hooker.
A rejigged back row includes Claire Molloy and Carol Staunton, another player making her first World Cup start.
Laura Guest and Jackie Shiels have also been added to the replacements bench, having sat out the 40-3 defeat to the Americans.
Doyle’s selection means a total of eight players have been ever-present in the Ireland team throughout the tournament, starting all five matches against England, the USA (twice), Kazakhstan and Scotland.
The eight are goal-kicking full-back Niamh Briggs, Joanne O’Sullivan, Lynne Cantwell, team captain Fiona Coghlan, Gillian Bourke, Kate O’Loughlin, Marie Louise Reilly and top try scorer Joy Neville (four).
Sunday’s opponents, Scotland, are regular rivals for the Irish in the Six Nations. The girls in green won 15-3 when the sides met in Ashbourne in March, but the Scots turned the tables when winning 20-15 in a World Cup warm-up match at Lasswade last month.
A victory this weekend would see Ireland finish seventh overall, bettering their eighth place finish at the 2006 Women’s World Cup in Edmonton, Canada.
Coghlan said: “Scotland are close rivals for us. We play them every year, it’s always close enough between us.
“It’ll be another tough game, we just have to be ready for it, go out and look to seal that higher ranking. That’s what we’re here to do and we still have a shot at it.
“Four years ago at the last World Cup, we were lucky to get into the middle group (5th to 8th). This time we well deserve to be in the middle group.
“We deserve a higher ranking on the performances we’ve put in (before the last day), so we just have to do all we can to get this final win.”
Previewing Sunday’s play-off, head coach Doyle said: “We play Scotland every year and they’re a great team in themselves.
“To be honest, just coming into this tournament I wanted a one place improvement on eighth, four years ago. Now it’s our little final, and we will go out and endeavour to get that seventh.
“Scotland we know very well and they know us well, so it’s going to be a good game.”
IRELAND WOMEN’S TEAM & REPLACEMENTS (v Scotland Women, 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup 7th-8th place play-off, Surrey Sports Park, Sunday, September 5, kick-off 11.15am):
15 – Niamh Briggs (Clonmel/Munster)
14 – Eliza Downey (Cooke/Ulster)
13 – Joanne O’Sullivan (Richmond/Exile)
12 – Lynne Cantwell (UL Bohemians)
11 – Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians/Munster)
10 – Helen Brosnan (Highfield/Munster)
9 – Louise Beamish (UL Bohemians/Munster)
1 – Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt)
2 – Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster)
3 – Louise Austin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
4 – Kate O’Loughlin (Clonmel/Munster)
5 – Marie Louise Reilly (Navan/Leinster)
6 – Carol Staunton (Galwegians/Connacht)
7 – Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht)
8 – Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster)
16 – Yvonne Nolan (Blackrock/Leinster)
17 – Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster)
18 – Orla Brennan (Blackrock/Leinster)
19 – Sinead Ryan (Blackrock/Leinster)
20 – Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster)
21 – Shannon Houston (Blackrock/Leinster)
22 – Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Leinster)
Ireland Women’s Rugby World Cup Results/Fixtures:
Pool B –
Ireland v Scotland, Surrey, Sunday, September 5